Hundreds of people are contracting rabies in the capital city, adding to Kathmandu’s growing concerns.
This is alarming because Nepal has committed to eradicating cases of dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.
Although government officials are sure that the target is something they can achieve, they are not satisfied with the progress that has been made till date.
According to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) Zoonosis Unit, as many as 26,312 people bitten by dogs were given anti-rabies vaccines at health facilities across Nepal in the last fiscal year.
However, 32 persons among them died of rabies.
As per Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital data, the number of dog bites cases in recent years has increased significantly in Kathmandu.
The hospital receives around 350 to 400 cases of dog bites every year.
“Every day, 350 to 400 dog bite patients visit our hospital,” said Sankar Pandey, Out-patient Department In-charge.
Pandey adds that 9,000-9,500 dog-bite patients get anti-rabies vaccine administered from the hospital, every month.
Viral rabies is also fatal. The epidemic killed three people who were on treatment in the hospital last month.
Officials say that people still lack knowledge about rabies as a deadly disease and therefore do not take immediate precautions after they are bitten.
Another reason for the epidemic is that the vaccination is not cheap and costs around NPR 500.
To help people avail such vaccines, the hospital said that the government health facilities administer these vaccines for free.
Epidemiology and Disease Control Division EDCD Zoonosis Unit Chief Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari added that lack of collaboration and coordination between different stakeholders is the reason for slow progress in curbing the disease.
It is the responsibility of the local governments to manage stray dogs. “These different agencies need to work in close coordination,” he said.
“Achieving the 2030 target of zero deaths from rabies is possible, but all concerned stakeholders need to work in tandem” added Adhikari.
Curbing Rabies – Current Practices and the Way Forward
He says that currently, the Ministry of Health and Population provides anti-rabies vaccines and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestocks Development of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City injects anti-rabies vaccine to dogs.
According to Kathmandu Metropolitan Agriculture and Livestock Department Chief Hari Bahadur Bhandari, his department has assigned the task of vaccinating street dogs to an NGO.
The Nepal Government has allocated NPR 100 million to buy anti-rabies vaccines for the ongoing fiscal year.
Adhikari adds that EDCD bought NPR 70 million worth vaccines in the previous fiscal alone.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that rabies causes 59,000 agonizing deaths worldwide, annually – one person every nine minutes.
While the disease is fatal, it is 100 percent preventable if there are vaccines and life-saving treatment.